Press Room NEWSLETTERS
May 18, 2007 ED Review
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 May 18, 2007
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Moving Forward
Proposed IDEA Regulations
Silent Epidemic
New STEM Report
NAEP History and Civics
Safe Schools/Healthy Students
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Moving Forward

On May 10, Secretary Spellings testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor regarding the Department's oversight of college student aid and the Reading First program. "Federal student aid is crying out for reform," she said. "The system is redundant, it's Byzantine, and it's broken.... Since President Bush took office, we've worked hard to clean up this system. Today, the majority of schools and lenders are doing the right thing. But when the public's trust is violated, my Department has and will act." Specifically, the Secretary noted her convening of representatives from student groups, institutions, and the lending community to "look at ways to make the system more transparent and easier to use." Then, when that group failed to reach consensus, she assembled an internal task force to work on lender issues. "But let me be very clear," she added. "If we limited our efforts to lending practices, without addressing the interrelated nature of cost, financing, quality, and accessibility in higher education, we're only treating the symptoms, instead of finding a cure." Therefore, the Department has been acting on the recommendations of the Secretary's Commission on the Future of Higher Education to increase affordability, accessibility, and accountability. As for Reading First, the Secretary said she had appointed new leadership, issued clearer guidance and training on implementation, and sought input from the states on reforms. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/05/05102007.html. (The Secretary's written statement, detailing how the Department has improved management and reduced the default outstanding loan portfolio by 40% since 2001, is available at http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/2007/05/05102007.html.)

One day later, the Secretary invited House and Senate education leaders to a working lunch to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act and the Higher Education Act. "I am hopeful the pursuit of oversight will not delay moving forward legislatively on these two important laws," she wrote. "Indeed, reauthorization of NCLB and the HEA is an effective way to address the issues raised by your oversight activities." For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/05/05112007a.html.

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Proposed IDEA Regulations

The Department has proposed regulations to ease bureaucratic burdens, increase flexibility, and assure accountability by states in preparing America's infants and toddlers with disabilities to succeed in school. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) serves children through age 2 with developmental delays or who have diagnosed physical or mental conditions with high probabilities of resulting in developmental delays. In 2005 (the most recent available data), about 298,000 children, or about 2% of the population of infants and toddlers nationwide, were served under Part C. Comments on the regulations are welcome and will be considered in the development of final regulations; they must be received by July 23 (see link for various submission options). Also, public meetings will be held as follows: June 4 (4-7:30 p.m., Portland, OR); June 6 (4-7:30 p.m., Oklahoma City, OK); June 11 (4-7:30 p.m., Indianapolis, IN); and June 14 (3-7:30 p.m., Washington, DC). For more information, please go to http://idea.ed.gov/static/partCNprm.

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Silent Epidemic

Last week (May 9), Secretary Spellings joined First Lady Laura Bush and more than 500 other stakeholders at the "Summit on America's Silent Epidemic," a day-long event targeting the national high school dropout crisis sponsored by Civic Enterprises, MTV, the National Governors Association, TIME magazine, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Today, a quality education is more important than ever and solving our dropout crisis is not just a moral imperative, it's an economic necessity," the Secretary stated. "The U.S. has the most severe income gap between high school graduates and dropouts in the world.... Yet, every year, nearly a million kids fail to graduate high school with their peers." The summit produced many materials, including a 10-point plan endorsed by over 100 organizations and a new, online tool from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center (http://63.241.153.180/edweek/main.html) providing reliable, comparable data on the graduation rate of every school district. For more information, please go to http://www.silentepidemic.org/summit/. (The Secretary's full remarks are available at http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/05/05092007.html.)

A related, May 12 op-ed by the Secretary and Senator Edward Kennedy, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is posted at http://www.ed.gov/news/opeds/edit/2007/05122007.html.

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New STEM Report

One of the strategies to prevent dropouts is challenging students with rigorous courses in the growing fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). However, according to the final report of the Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC), which inventoried 105 federal STEM programs, there is a "general dearth" of effective practices and activities in STEM education across the federal government. Moreover, there is some duplication, as well as critical programmatic gaps. For example, less than 1% of federal program funding is targeted solely to math education. To improve the situation, the ACC issued six recommendations, from maintaining the program inventory so as to facilitate interagency coordination to requiring a rigorous, independent evaluation of any program receiving an increase in funding. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/competitiveness/acc-mathscience/.

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NAEP History and Civics

Earlier this week (May 16), the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released results from the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in U.S. history and civics. Overall, student achievement improved significantly at all three grade levels tested (fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade) in U.S. history (previously assessed in 1994 and 2001) and at the fourth-grade level in civics (previously assessed in 1998). In addition, on both exams, achievement gaps narrowed in the fourth-grade: white-black and white-Hispanic gaps in U.S. history and white-Hispanic gaps in civics. On the other hand, eighth- and twelfth-grade civics achievement has not changed, and, on both exams, achievement gaps persist in the upper grades. One interesting side note. The twelfth-grade improvement in U.S. history marks the first time high school students have had a significant increase in achievement on a NAEP test since 1998. On all NAEP tests since then (reading, math, science, and civics), results have been flat or declining. For more information, please go to http://nationsreportcard.gov/ushistory_2006/ or http://nationsreportcard.gov/civics_2006/.

In a statement, Secretary Spellings attributed fourth-grade gains to the No Child Left Behind Act's emphasis on reading. "As students' skills in reading fluency and comprehension strengthen, so does their ability to do well in other subject areas," she explained. "While critics may argue that NCLB leads educators to narrow their curriculum focus, the fact is, when students know how to read and comprehend, they apply these skills to other subjects like history and civics. The result is greater academic gains." For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/05/05162007.html.

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Safe Schools/Healthy Students

Applications are now available for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant competition. Safe Schools/Healthy Students is a collaborative program supported by three federal agencies: Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice. Under the program, school districts partner with local law enforcement, juvenile justice, and mental health agencies to implement a comprehensive plan focused on six elements, including safe school environments, mental health treatment services, and early childhood emotional development programs. Successful applicants propose plans that take up these issues with a thoughtful, well-coordinated strategy that links all services in a more systematic and effective manner. The deadline for applications is June 19. For more information, please go to http://www.sshs.samhsa.gov/.

Also: Deputy Chief of Staff Holly Kuzmich recently testified on school and campus safety. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/05/05172007.html.

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Quote to Note

"The pursuit of knowledge is such a pure and admired value. It's a universal representation of hope—a means to a better life. And, I believe that's part of why the tragedy at Virginia Tech has resonated and impacted us all so deeply.... Yet, when something bad happens, education is also a means to get through it—an opportunity to learn from and act on the moment we're in. The events at Virginia Tech remind us just how precious life is, how important it is to seize the day, give your kids a hug, take time for that cup of coffee with a good friend, and never take tomorrow for granted."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (5/6/07),
from her commencement address at San Francisco's
Golden Gate University

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Upcoming Events

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, at 3:00 p.m. local time, Americans are asked to stop what they are doing and spend one minute in a Moment of Remembrance. The mid-afternoon time was chosen because it is when a majority of Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the holiday. For more information, please go to http://www.remember.gov/. (For an array of relevant teaching and learning resources, see the FREE web site at http://free.ed.gov/subjects.cfm?subject_id=256.)

On May 31, at 10:00 a.m. ET, NCES will release "The Condition of Education 2007." For more information, please go to http://nces.ed.gov/.

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel's seventh meeting is June 5 and 6 in Miami. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 05/05/2008